Coming Down the Davos Mountain with a Gender Lens

Conferences, Education, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Labour, TerraViva United Nations

NEW YORK, Feb 15 2020 (IPS) – In a recent report by World Economic Forum (WEF) shows women suffer a “triple whammy” in the workplace. Without drastic action, gender parity will take more than a lifetime to achieve. This is the challenge that Katja Iversen, President and CEO of Women Deliver is staring down.


“We know that achieving gender equality is not a women’s issue. It is a societal issue. To be successful … boys and men must be involved at all levels and all ages,” said Iversen.

Iversen’s involvement WEF 2020 annual meeting in Davos increased the spotlight on gender equality. She was involved in a myriad of discussions, conversations, panel debates, midnight huddles and a social media drive. As the woman who heads leading global advocate for gender equality, health and rights of girls and women her role at the annual forum was clear cut.

“We provoked discussions using our ‘gender lens’ – a small magnifying glass. We gave this to leaders and influencers to bring down the mountain and apply to their businesses, governments, and lives,” Iversen said in an exclusive interview with IPS.

“Along with our partners, Promundo and Unilever/Dove Men+Care, we released a series of recommendations on male engagement in gender equality, condensed in a catchy infographic.”

Iversen went on to emphasise how “everybody – including the men and women in Davos – must apply a gender lens to every aspect of life, from leadership, to health systems, to schools, the workplace, and at home. That is an important step to change systems, to change harmful norms, and drive progress.”

This may seem a momentous task. The WEF report, released in December 2019, highlighted the factors that fuel the economic gender gap. This included a noticeably low level of women in leadership positions, wage stagnation, labour force participation and income.

The report highlights what it terms a ‘Triple Whammy’ for women in the workplace. Women, the report said, are highly represented in many of the roles that have been hit hardest by automation.

Moreover, not enough women are entering technology-driven professions where wage growth is more profound. This puts women into the middle to low wage categories that have been stagnant since the financial crisis in 2009.

Thirdly, a lack of access to capital prevents them from pursuing entrepreneurial activities, another key driver for income.

WEF aims to close the gender gap by setting up coalitions between relevant ministries and the largest employers to increase female labour force participation, increase women in leadership positions, close wage gaps and prepare women for jobs of the future. Additionally, the global business commitment on Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work mobilises businesses to commit to hiring 50% women for their five highest growth roles between now and 2022.

Iversen said women must be involved in the development and growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ubiquitous digital technology for them to benefit.

“We know that innovation and technology hold a lot of power and can be used for good – but only if it works for girls and women and identifies the bias that holds them back,” she said.

While there was potential for digital technologies, like AI, to unlock better health access and information, new employment and leadership opportunities, and greater economic security for women – it could “just as likely leave big parts of the population behind and exacerbate existing inequalities”.

This was why the gender lens in the development and implementation of AI and other tech solutions is so critical, said Iversen. Having women involved in the growth of digital technology “can ensure technology is more representative and can eliminate unconscious bias in hiring, promotion, and recruitment”.

It is critical that women’s education, especially in the field of technology, is enhanced, enabling them to participate in future workforce equally.

“We also need to make sure we are investing in women’s lifelong education and training, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math. It is key to their professional and financial security in the workforce of tomorrow.”

Investment in women and their participation in the economy has a ripple effect.

“Evidence and common sense confirm that when leadership and the workforce represent the population and include women, it leads to better economic, social, and political cohesion and puts us on a better, more sustainable path.”

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, noted in his speech at WEF 2020 that while problems were global, the responses were fragmented.

“If I had to select one sentence to describe the state of the world, I would say we are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated, and the responses are more and more fragmented, and if this is not reversed, it’s a recipe for disaster,” he warned.

Iversen explains that by putting the gender lens at the centre of the solutions, it would enhance society’s ability to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals. It would also mitigate the ‘fragmented responses’ to global challenges.

“Gender is cross-cutting, it is essential to progress and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Conservation of our planet; eradicating poverty and ensuring health; education; peace, and prosperity for all need to be integrated. This requires putting a gender lens to the entire development agenda,” Iversen said.

“One of the reasons the world is facing so many challenges right now, including trade wars, conflict, climate change, and growing inequality, is that girls, women, and marginalised groups are prevented from accessing power, both political and financial. Big egos, narrow interests, and profit over people and planet have been, mistakenly, prioritised, and we are paying the price for that.”

Women Deliver’s President was emphatic that “development actors from across the spectrum must abandon siloed approaches. It was essential to work together to drive progress for the people and planet, including girls and women, both through financial investment and multi-sector partnerships.”

Iversen is confident. WEF was “good start to the Decade of Action for the Global Goals and the 2020 Generation Equality push, demanding women’s equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life.”

Involving the younger generation was also paramount to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“What was also clear coming down the Davos mountain is that any efforts to push the development agenda over the finish line will fail if they don’t involve young people. Because youth not only have a stake in reaching our ambitious development goals by 2030, they are also well-suited to identify solutions right now.”

To address and improve gender equality, Iversen emphasised that it required a global effort. The private sector has a vested interest and a significant role to play in advancing gender equality. “We want governments and business leaders to use the gender lens in all they do. They should complete a concrete analysis of what progress they have made and what gender gaps remain,” Iversen said.

Both should ask themselves: What policies and procedures are inhibiting or promoting progress? What gender norms are prevalent and need to be addressed? What investments in gender equality could be made?

“And once that analysis is complete – get to work!”

Women Deliver has been relentless in that message and in bringing the evidence to bear with great partners. “And in recent years we have seen that the world – including at WEF – has started to catch on. Our challenge now is to move from talking to mobilising dedicated action.”

Women Deliver continues to be serious advocates, speaking up for girls and women in every setting.

“We’ll continue to advise committees for big corporations and international agencies. We’ll continue to elevate the voices of young advocates and local organisations around the world. We will continue to push back on the pushback to protect our gains and drive further progress,” Iversen said.

“We will continue to communicate from podiums, in boardrooms and hallways of major summits, on the pages of major newspapers, on (television) screens and social media – with the clear message: In a gender-equal world, everybody wins.”

IPS asked about the trend of women participating as policy-makers at WEF. Just how prominent is women’s role? Iversen replied that “24% of the 2,700 formal WEF participants were women. While that is an improvement from previous years, it’s still way too small. WEF has pledged to double female participation by 2030, and we are ready to help to speed it up.”

“We have a long way to go, but I saw progress at WEF,” said Iversen, adding, “More and new world leaders – in business and government – are picking up the gender lens. There is still so much to be done, and progress is slow for an impatient optimist like myself. But I came down the Davos mountain more hopeful than I went up, and more ready than ever to power progress for girls, women and gender equality in the Super Year ahead.”

Iversen remains optimistic. “Ultimately, we want to work ourselves out of a job. Then sit back and see a world where gender inequality is a thing of the past, where it is something people make fun of like the ‘old days’. Where people say, ‘I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner’.”

 

World’s Young Activists at War: First, Occupy Wall Street, Next Un-Occupy Palestine

Active Citizens, Climate Change, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Credit: Amnesty International

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 6 2020 (IPS) – The world’s young activists, numbering over 3.8 billion, are on the war path.

The rising new socialist movements—which originated with “Black Lives Matter” and “Occupy Wall Street” (one protester’s slogan read: “Un-Occupy Palestine”) — were aimed at battling racism, political repression and institutionalized inequalities in capitalist societies.


In its recent cover story, Time magazine dubbed it “Youthquake” – a new phenomenon shaking up the old order, as young activists lead the fight against right-wing authoritarianism, government corruption and rising new hazards of climate change.

Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International (AI), told IPS “it is stunning to see how aggressive government efforts to quash protests, including by killing protesters, have not even succeeded in stopping them in the short run”.

In the long run, far too much is at stake, she said, where the coming years are likely to see more protests rather than fewer.

And it is more so in Asia, says AI, in a recently-released report which reviews human rights in 25 Asian and Pacific states and territories during 2019.

“2019 was a year of repression in Asia, but also of resistance”.

“As governments across the continent attempt to uproot fundamental freedoms, people are fighting back – and young people are at the forefront of the struggle,” says Nicholas Bequelin, AI’s Regional Director for East and South-East Asia and the Pacific.

“From students in Hong Kong leading a mass movement against growing Chinese encroachment, to students in India protesting against anti-Muslim policies; from Thailand’s young voters flocking to a new opposition party to Taiwan’s pro LGBTI-equality demonstrators. Online and offline, youth-led popular protests are challenging the established order,” he added.

Also, the rise of a new generation determined to lead the fight against climate emergency has led to a major youth movement worldwide, resulting in protest marches, with thousands of young people demonstrating in the streets of New York and in several world capitals.

According to Time magazine, the world’s under-30 population has been rising since 2012, and today accounts for more than half of the world’s 7.5 billion people.

Credit: Amnesty International

Asked for the primary reasons for this surge in young activism, Mariner said this new era of youth activism reflects young people’s understanding that it’s their future at stake.

“If they don’t demand more from governments, including a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, their future is uncertain. It is the young who will inherit this fast-warming planet, and they see all too clearly the consequences of their elders’ inaction and irresponsibility,” she argued.

Meanwhile, the Youth Assembly, described as one of the longest-running and largest global youth summits, is scheduled to take place in New York city February 14-16.

The theme of next week’s 25th session will be: “It’s Time: Youth for Global Impact” aimed at underlining the importance of engaging young people, “especially at a time when the youth are influencing and leading movements that can change the world.”

Meanwhile, the Amnesty International report says China and India, Asia’s two largest powers, set the tone for repression across the region with their overt rejection of human rights.

Beijing’s backing of an Extradition Bill for Hong Kong, giving the local government the power to extradite suspects to the mainland, ignited mass protests in the territory on an unprecedented scale.

Since June, Hong Kongers have regularly taken to the streets to demand accountability in the face of abusive policing tactics that have included the wanton use of tear gas, arbitrary arrests, physical assaults and abuses in detention. This struggle against the established order has been repeated all over the continent, said AI.

In India, the AI report noted, millions decried a new law that discriminates against Muslims in a swell of peaceful demonstrations. In Indonesia, people rallied against parliament’s enactment of several laws that threatened public freedoms.

In Afghanistan, marchers risked their safety to demand an end to the country’s long-running conflict. In Pakistan, the non-violent Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement defied state repression to mobilize against enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

Divya Srinivasan, Equality Now’s South Asia Consultant, told IPS young people across Asia have shown incredible resilience and bravery in their continuing battle against government repression in 2019.

One remarkable feature of these protests is that in many instances, they have been led by women and girls, including those from minority communities, she added.

In India, one of the epicentres of protests against the new anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which discriminates against Muslims, has been the neighbourhood of Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi.

Srinivasan said women and children have braved the winter chill and gathered in huge numbers to continuously occupy a highway around the clock in a peaceful protest that has already lasted over a month.

“The voices of these women, particularly Muslim women, have been bravely opposing the Government’s discriminatory laws, and voicing concerns about the oppression of minorities and police brutality.”

“The Shaheen Bagh protest began on December 14th with around a dozen local women and their children and numbers soon swelled into the hundreds”, she said.

And the site has become a creative space for many children and young people, with singing, storytelling, poetry, and talks happening daily, and drawings, graffiti, posters, photographs, and art installations decorating the roadside where people are camping”

In early 2019, Srinivasan said, India saw another historic protest in the form of the Dignity March, which was a 10,000-kilometre long march through 24 states that brought together thousands of survivors of sexual violence, including many young women and girls, who were raising their voices to call for justice, dignity, and an end to victim-blaming and stigma.”

“Young women across Asia are making their voices heard. We cannot ignore them any longer,” declared Srinivasan, a licensed attorney in India with a background in women’s rights, including work on sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual violence against women.

Asked whether there is a role for the United Nations to either support or give its blessings to these youth activists, AI’s Mariner said: “The UN, including at the highest levels, can and should speak out to demand that governments respect the right of peaceful protest”

She pointed out it was heartening to hear UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemn the killings of protesters in Iraq, “although he has been far less vocal regarding repression elsewhere”.

Also encouraging, from the perspective of UN action, are the numerous UN special rapporteurs who have called on the authorities in Hong Kong, India, and Indonesia, among others, to protect the rights of those who participate in protests, she declared.

The AI repot said people speaking out against these atrocities were routinely punished, but their standing up made a difference. There were many examples where efforts to achieve human rights progress in Asia paid off.

In Taiwan, same-sex marriage became legal following tireless campaigning by activists. In Sri Lanka, lawyers and activists successfully campaigned against the resumption of executions.

Brunei was forced to backtrack on enforcing laws to make adultery and sex between men punishable by stoning, while former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak took the stand on corruption charges for the first time.

The Pakistani government pledged to tackle climate change and air pollution, and two women were appointed as judges on the Maldivian Supreme Court for the first time.

And in Hong Kong, the power of protest forced the government to withdraw the Extradition Bill. Yet, with no accountability for months of abuses against demonstrators, the fight goes on.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Our Message at Davos: Water & Sanitation Are a Critical Line of Defence Against Climate Change

Civil Society, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Health, Population, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Water & Sanitation

Opinion

Tim Wainwright is Chief Executive of WaterAid UK.

Credit: WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

LONDON, Jan 31 2020 (IPS) – There was only one topic on everyone’s lips at Davos this year – climate change. The headlines focused on the cold war between Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump, but there was much greater consensus among those gathered for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).


The Forum itself updated its manifesto for responsible business – with climate right at its core.

Among those calling for urgent action was WaterAid’s own president, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. It’s more than 30 years since he last attended Davos and, as he reminded the audience, 50 years since he made his first speech on the environment.

His message was stark, and his call to action challenging: the climate emergency requires nothing less than an overhaul of the current economy, with a new deal for people and planet.

The mood is slowly shifting towards the scale of action needed, given that climate change will affect every part of the economy. This cannot be truer than for water – the WEF has ranked water crises in its top five global risks in terms of likelihood or impact every year since 2012.

Infographic showing the top 10 risks over the next 10 years, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 report. Credit: World Economic Forum

The climate crisis is a water crisis, and a threat multiplier

Throughout the forum I had one consistent message: for the world’s poorest, the climate crisis is a water crisis. Yes, it has long-term implications for your businesses and economies. But, first and foremost, it is a question of survival, dignity and justice, with climate change already having devastating impacts on the lives of the people who did least to cause it.

Flooding, storms and droughts, which all impact on how and if people can get clean water, are becoming more frequent and extreme, and these trends are predicted to rise as the climate continues to change. This will undermine the already precarious access to water for billions around the world.

Climate change acts as a huge threat multiplier, worsening existing barriers to these services and rolling back progress already made.

As people living in climate-vulnerable areas experience changing weather patterns, less predictable rainfall, salt water intrusion and increased exposure to disease, water and sanitation become a critical line of defence.

If your water supply comes from a shallow aquifer that fills with sea water, then you can no longer drink it. But if the person designing your water supply has thought of this threat and factored it in, perhaps by drawing on deeper aquifers, then you can carry on living in your neighbourhood.

If your toilets and sanitation systems are constructed to withstand flooding, then your community does not suffer the same level of contamination after flooding as if human waste had been spread by the high waters.

The water and sanitation sector could become a leader in climate adaptation

But we currently lack the level of public and private sector investment and innovation required to deliver the sustainable water services that would benefit poverty reduction, industry and economic development.

This is a huge blind spot for business leaders and politicians, and a missed opportunity for creating a more sustainable future.

Rather than lagging behind, the water and sanitation sector could become a leader in delivering the kind of green infrastructure, services and jobs urgently required to enable adaptation to the worst impacts of climate change.

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid UK, speaking with Hassan Nasir Jamy, Secretary Ministry of Climate Change, at Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change in Islamabad, Pakistan. Credit: WaterAid/ Sibtain Haider

Water, sanitation and hygiene are core to a sustainable future

Leaving Davos last year, I was frustrated. I felt that too few understood or discussed the impact climate change would have on the already grave state of the world’s water and sanitation, and the devastating consequences for education, health, productivity and development.

This year, I sensed a greater understanding of the interlinked challenges we face, and with that an air of urgency and proactivity. Businesses are looking for solutions – not just raising concerns.

That is why WaterAid will be one of the organisations working closely with HRH the Prince of Wales as part of his 2020 year of action.

In March, in London, we will bring together the public, private and philanthropic sectors for a high-level summit that will position water, sanitation and hygiene at the forefront of the fight against climate, and work on the solutions that will ensure a sustainable future for all.

And we will continue that work across the WaterAid federation throughout the year, including at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali in June, and at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 26, in Glasgow in November, to help build momentum for decisive action.

In this way we hope WaterAid can play its part in shifting the global trajectory in the coming decade, resulting in a fairer world for the poorest and most marginalised people.

Read our guide Water and resilient business: the critical role of water, sanitation and hygiene in a changing climate to learn more about how businesses can take action.

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Urbanization as a Path to Prosperity

Civil Society, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Population, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Chris Wellisz. Credit: Porter Gifford

WASHINGTON DC, Jan 29 2020 (IPS) – Growing up in New York City in the 1970s, Edward Glaeser saw a great metropolis in decline. Crime was soaring. Garbage piled up on sidewalks as striking sanitation workers walked off the job. The city teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.


By the mid-1980s, it was clear that New York would bounce back. But it could still be a scary place; there was a triple homicide across the street from his school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Glaeser was nevertheless captivated by New York’s bustling street life and spent hours roaming its neighborhoods.

“It was both wonderful and terrifying, and it was hard not to be obsessed by it,” Glaeser recalls in an interview at his office at Harvard University.

Today, that sense of wonder still permeates Glaeser’s work as an urban economist. He deploys the economist’s theoretical tool kit to explore questions inspired by his youth in New York.

Why do some cities fail while others flourish? What accounts for sky-high housing costs in San Francisco? How does the growth of cities differ in rich and poor countries?

“I have always thought of myself as fundamentally a curious child,” Glaeser, 52, says. Rather than “pushing well-established literature forward,” he seeks to comprehend “something that I really don’t understand when I start out.”

While still a graduate student at the University of Chicago, Glaeser made his mark as a theorist of the benefits of agglomeration—the idea that dense and diverse cities are hothouses of innovation, energy, and creativity that fuel economic growth.

In the years since, his work has ranged across a breathtaking variety of subjects, from rent control and real estate bubbles to property rights, civil disobedience, and carbon emissions.

“For a couple decades now, Ed has been the leading thinker about the economics of place,” says Lawrence Summers, a Harvard professor who served as director of the National Economic Council under US President Barack Obama. “And the economics of urban areas are increasingly being seen as central to broad economic concerns.”

Glaeser and Summers are collaborating on a study of the hardening divide between well-educated, affluent coastal regions of the United States and islands of economic stagnation in what they call the “eastern heartland,” the interior states east of the Mississippi River.

There, in cities like Flint, Michigan, the proportion of prime-age men who aren’t working has been rising—along with rates of opioid addiction, disability, and mortality.

How can policy help? Traditionally, economists have been skeptical of the value of place-based policies like enterprise zones that offer tax breaks to investors, saying it is better to help people, not places.

People, they assumed, would move to where the jobs were. But labor mobility has declined in recent decades, partly because of high housing costs, partly because demand for relatively unskilled factory work has diminished.

Breaking with economic orthodoxy, Glaeser and Summers say that the federal government should tailor pro-employment measures, such as reducing the payroll tax or increasing tax credits to low earners, to fit the needs of economically distressed areas such as West Virginia. They also make the case for boosting investment in education.

As a Chicago-trained economist, Glaeser is a strong believer in the magic of free markets and opposes measures that distort incentives. “I have always been against spatial redistribution, taking from rich areas and giving to poor areas,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that you want the same policies everywhere.”

Urban economics seemed like a natural pursuit for Glaeser. His German-born father, Ludwig, was an architect who taught him how the built environment shapes people’s lives. His mother, Elizabeth, was an asset manager who introduced him to economics. Glaeser recalls how she used the example of competing cobblers to explain marginal cost pricing.

“I remember thinking what an amazing and fascinating thing it is to think about the impact of competition,” he says. He was 10 years old.

In high school, Glaeser excelled at history and mathematics. As a Princeton University undergraduate, he considered majoring in political science before choosing economics, seeing it as a path to Wall Street.

But dreams of a career in finance ended with the stock market crash of 1987, just as he started job interviews. So he opted for graduate school, because “it didn’t seem like I was cutting off many options,” he says.

“Then I got to Chicago, and that was when I really fell in love with economics.”

Glaeser keeps a framed photograph of himself with Gary Becker, the Chicago economist and Nobel prize laureate. Becker taught him that the discipline’s conceptual tools could be used to explore topics that had once been the domain of fields like sociology or anthropology—topics like racial discrimination, fertility, and the family.

“It was that sense of the creative side of economics that could work on a virtually unlimited canvas and try to make sense of any problem that you thought was important—that was the part that was so exciting to me,” Glaeser says.

At the time, Chicago economists Robert Lucas and Paul Romer were developing the so-called endogenous growth theory, which focused on the role of innovation and the exchange of ideas in economic development.

As Glaeser recalls it, Lucas pointed to cities as places where knowledge spillovers occur—meaning people can benefit from other people’s ideas without paying for them. Think of a city like Detroit early last century, where Henry Ford used his experience as chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company to start his automobile business.

That concept inspired a groundbreaking 1992 paper, “Growth in Cities.” Glaeser and three co-authors set out to use cities as a laboratory in which to test the new growth theories. Using 30 years of data covering 170 US cities, they found that local competition and diversity, rather than specialization, are the prime motors of urban growth.

The paper instantly made Glaeser a star and earned him a job offer from Harvard.

Glaeser “showed that urban variety, not specialization in one particular thing, was a big driver of employment growth,” says Joseph Gyourko, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and a longtime collaborator. “It was Ed’s first really well-cited article, so it did start him on his path.”

Gyourko and Glaeser started working together in the early 2000s, when Glaeser took a year’s sabbatical at Penn. They wondered why some cities, such as Detroit, declined so slowly, and why so many people stayed instead of moving elsewhere. They hit upon a simple answer: housing is durable, and as cities slump, it becomes cheaper to live there.

That insight prompted a related question: Why is housing so much more expensive than the cost of construction in cities like New York and Boston? The answer: land-use restrictions limit density, curbing the supply of housing and driving up prices. It was basic economics, yet until then, urban economists hadn’t focused on the role of regulation.

Glaeser argues that excessive regulation is destructive of the very essence of urban life—density. Cities thrive on the creativity that occurs when people living cheek by jowl exchange ideas and know-how. Sunbelt cities like Houston have grown because an easy regulatory environment keeps housing inexpensive.

To economists like Glaeser, building and zoning regulations are a tax on development. Some level of tax makes economic sense, because construction imposes costs on residents in the form of noise, congestion, and pollution.

But overly stringent regulation, often pushed by residents who want to keep out newcomers and protect their property values, can make housing unaffordable for most people.

Glaeser is similarly skeptical of historic preservation rules, to the dismay of followers of Jane Jacobs, the legendary critic of urban-renewal projects who celebrated the lively street life of New York’s old ethnic neighborhoods.

Glaeser is a big Jacobs fan—he owns an autographed copy of her 1961 classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities—but argues that her efforts to oppose development in Greenwich Village were at odds with her support for low-income housing.

“I believe that many of our oldest buildings are treasures,” he says. “But don’t simultaneously pretend that that’s a route toward affordability. Affordability is created by mass-produced cheap housing or mass-produced cheap commercial space. And you might not like it aesthetically, but that is the affordable route.”

In 2000, Glaeser published “Consumer City,” a paper he wrote with Jed Kolko and Albert Saiz. In it, he took the concept of agglomeration a step further, arguing that people are drawn not only to the opportunities that cities offer, but also to amenities such as theaters, museums, and restaurants.

“We know that cities can attract the disproportionately young and innovative,” says Richard Florida, a professor of urban studies at the University of Toronto. “Ed was identifying the factors driving that, this whole idea that cities are not only places of production, but places of consumption.”

Glaeser laments policies such as the mortgage interest deduction, which encourages people to buy homes rather than rent apartments; highway subsidies, which make it easier to drive to the suburbs; and a school system that disadvantages inner-city students.

Such policies, he argues, not only are antiurban but also contribute to climate change, because city dwellers, who live in smaller homes and use mass transit, consume less electricity and gasoline than their suburban counterparts.

Surprisingly, he and his wife, Nancy, who have three children, decided to move to the suburbs of Boston several years ago. To Glaeser, it was a perfectly rational decision: the suburbs offer more living space, better schools, and a reasonably fast commute.

Already well known in academia, Glaeser started to reach a broader audience with the publication in 2011 of his bestselling book, Triumph of the City, a lively study of urbanization from ancient Baghdad to modern Bangalore.

His eloquence and enthusiasm make him a sought-after speaker at academic forums and TED Talks. Invariably, he is impeccably attired in well-pressed suits and preaches the gospel of urbanization in crisp, rapid-fire sentences.

Despite his celebrity, he takes teaching seriously. Rebecca Diamond, who attended his advising sessions as a graduate student, said he was generous with his time. “He taught me perspective and not to get too stuck in the weeds,” says Diamond, who now teaches at Stanford University and stays in touch with Glaeser.

Developing-world cities are his latest passion. True to form, he sees them as relatively uncharted territory, neglected both by urban economists, who focus on advanced-economy cities, and development economists, who concentrate on rural areas. They are also growing fast, and their physical and institutional infrastructure are works in progress, so economists’ policy advice can have an impact.

“The ability of economists to make a difference by getting engaged is just very large,” he says. “So, I think it is the new frontier.”

It also takes him to interesting places. His latest research project, with Nava Ashraf and Alexia Delfino of the London School of Economics, took him to the markets of Lusaka, Zambia, to study barriers to female entrepreneurship.

They found women are more likely to go into business if the rule of law is strong enough to help overcome inherently unequal relations with men.

Like Jane Jacobs, Glaeser is big believer in observing what he sees around him. “You don’t really understand a city until you’ve actually walked in the streets,” Glaeser says.

“That’s what makes Ed a first rate applied theorist,” says Gyourko. “You’ve got to get your hands messy in the data. Sometimes data is just walking around.”

While researching Triumph of the City, Glaeser explored places like Mumbai’s Dharavi quarter, which was a “completely magical experience.” Among the world’s most densely populated places, Dharavi hums with entrepreneurial energy, with potters, tailors, and other craftsmen working side by side in cramped, ill-lit quarters.

At the same time, unpaved streets, polluted air, and open sewers are reminders of the downsides of density. But Glaeser doesn’t bemoan the poverty of such places; on the contrary, he says cities attract the poor precisely because they offer opportunity. For the developing world, urbanization is the best path to prosperity.

“For all of their problems, amazing things are happening in India and sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America,” Glaeser says. “And things obviously don’t always go the right direction, but cities have been working miracles of collaboration for thousands of years, and whenever I go to a developing-world city, it is obvious to me that the age of miracles is not over.”

Opinions expressed in articles and other materials are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect IMF policy.

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Addressing the Low Female Representation in STEM Education

Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Education

Data by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), shows that only 35 percent of students studying STEM in higher education globally are women. At primary and lower secondary levels, less than half of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have no electricity, computers or even access to the internet. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

DJIBOUTI CITY, Jan 28 2020 (IPS) – Dr. Anne-Maria Brennan loved science as a young girl. But instead of encouraging her, those around her made attempts to steer her in the “right direction”. “The right direction was in nursing, teaching and secretarial courses. I was told that girls do not study physics,” she tells IPS.


“These voices were so loud that I seriously considered becoming a music teacher. But then someone sensibly told me that I could become a scientist and an amateur musician, but there was nothing like an amateur scientist who was also a professional musician,” she says.

That was in the seventies, today Brennan is the vice-president of Science Engagement at the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation in the United Kingdom.

Brennan previously served as an associate professor in Bioscience and Forensic Biology, at the School of Applied Science, London South Bank University.

“It turns out that girls could in fact study physics, or mathematics, science, technology and engineering,” she quips.

It has been five decades since Brennan swam against the tide, pursuing a career in science. But data by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), shows that globally only 35 percent of students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – or STEM – in higher education are women. Further confirming that girls are still being steered towards domestic and caring career paths.

“Gender balance in enrolment as well as inclusivity in both participation and achievements in STEM education remains a global south challenge,” Professor Kalu Mosto Onuoha, President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, tells IPS.

“Education systems will never be balanced and inclusive when half of the population is not participating at per with their counterparts in STEM education,” he adds.

Similar sentiments were shared by other delegates participating in the 3rd International Summit on Balanced and Inclusive Education currently being held in Djibouti City, Djibouti. Organised by the Education Relief Foundation (ERF), over 200 delegates and government representatives from over 35 countries are currently in the Horn of Africa nation where state leaders are expected to sign a Universal Declaration on universal inclusive education.

  • Unfortunately, low female representation in STEM education is a narrative that knows no boundaries. According to UNESCO, Sweden has the highest share of women graduates from STEM programmes among Nordic countries, but STEM attainment among female students in Sweden stands at 16 percent, compared to male students at 47 percent.

Brennan affirms that the numbers are similarly low in the United Kingdom but notes some improvements in the fields of general practice and dentistry, where women have taken a lead.

She says there are few women in surgery and even fewer in engineering because men in these fields are considered unfriendly and the sectors too involved and dirty.

“These wide gender gaps in developing countries are purely out of choice. Students in these countries are making the choice to pursue other interests. In developing countries the choice is made for our students by a patriarchal culture and through socialisation,” says Onuoha.

He says that these inequalities are first rooted in the exclusion and marginalisation of girls in education enrolment.

“Girls who eventually made it to school were encouraged to undertake feminine subjects like teaching. They were socialised to believe that they could only be good mothers if they took on lighter subjects,” Onuoha expounds.

  • But the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 indicates that these inequalities are not limited to the lagging behind of girls at the enrolment level.
  • In countries such as the Southern Africa nation of Namibia where girls outpace boys in school enrolment at all levels, the gap widens in STEM education. Here, about eight percent of female students have attained STEM education, compared to 21 percent of male students.
  • Nonetheless, the report shines a spotlight on countries with impressive levels of STEM education uptake among their female students.
  • In Mauritania, for instance, attainment in STEM is at 29 percent among female students, and 31 percent among male students. In the South Asian nation of Myanmar, female students outpace male students in attainment of STEM education.
  • A few other countries such as the Arab country of Oman are slowly and surely closing the gender gap in STEM uptake, with 41 percent of female students and 55 percent of male students.

“In developing countries there are many concerted efforts to address the first part of  the problem, even though painfully slowly, we are slowly closing gender gaps in education enrolment, retention and in some cases, achievements,” Professor Mahouton Norbert Hounkonnou, from the Benin National Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, tells IPS.

Hounkonnou is a full professor of mathematics and physics, and called for the demystification of sciences. “STEM education is taught as if only a few people are meant to understand but science and math is for all of us. Everybody does math on a daily basis without even knowing it.”

Hounkonnou says that balanced and inclusive education systems call for an overhaul in what is taught in STEMs, who teaches it and how it is taught. “Learners love to be engaged. Our classrooms must become more interactive. We also need a gender component, currently lacking, in many of our educational interventions,” he adds.

He called for investment in infrastructure and learning materials to improve the environment in which STEM education is provided.

U.N. research shows that countries in the sub-Sahara Africa face the biggest challenges. At the primary and lower secondary levels, less than half of schools have access to electricity, computers and internet.

“This forum provides an opportunity for us to define the shape a balanced and inclusive STEM education system should take, and make concerted efforts to build that system. It will take financial and technical resources, including the training of teachers to better interact with female learners,” says Hounkonnou.

 

Balanced and Gender-Inclusive Education is a Smart Investment

Africa, Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Education

Pupils at the Elangata Enterit boarding primary school in Kenya’s Narok County. Experts say that a balanced education includes enabling girls to participate at the same level as boys. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

DJIBOUTI CITY, Jan 27 2020 (IPS) – Fihima Mohamed’s mother never attended school and until two years ago she could not read or write. Mohamed’s mother had been born in neighbouring Somalia but was sent to Djibouti as a young girl to live with her aunt. The expectation had been that she would have a better life by escaping the ongoing conflict in her home country at the time.


Instead, Mohamed’s mother became a domestic servant to her aunt — a circumstance that showed her that her own daughter’s future would be just as difficult if she too did not go to school.

Born and raised in the Republic of Djibouti, Mohamed told IPS that most of her childhood was spent in school or studying.

Between the ages of six and 16 years, she was driven by the vivid pictures her mother painted of the life that awaited her if she did not stay in school and perform well — one of domestic abuse. “I was told that as a woman, education would give me freedom,” she said, remembering how her mother was not able to make major household decisions and did not have the freedom to determine what direction her life took.

But her mother did make a decision that determined the course of Mohamed’s life. She opted not to buy the fish her children enjoyed so much for their meals and instead spent the money on private tuition classes for her daughter to supplement her schooling.

“I attended public school during the day, and at night, two hours of private school tuition. My mother sacrificed a lot to raise 25 dollars per month to pay for these night classes,” she said, explaining that she went to those classes not for her own sake but also so that she could help her three younger siblings with their homework.

The sacrifice paid off and Mohamed was placed among the country’s top-five students for her high school final exam. She received a scholarship to study in France for four years.

Fast track to 2020, Mohamed holds a bachelor’s degree in law and political science, and a Master’s degree in refugee studies. She is a social entrepreneur, a gender and environment activist and the founder of the Women Initiative, a local social movement for the empowerment of women and girls.

She said that Djibouti is among a growing list of developing countries were education attainment levels have significantly narrowed between boys and girls. United Nations statistics indicate that the gross primary school enrolment rates for girls have risen to nearly 61 percent.

This emerged during the 3rd International Summit on Balanced and Inclusive Education that is currently being held in Djibouti City, in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.

Organised by the Education Relief Foundation (ERF), over 200 delegates and government representatives from over 35 countries rallied behind an education pathway that leaves no one behind.

  • According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, there is an increasing number of countries in the global south where, on average, educational attainment gaps are now relatively small.
  • These countries include Cambodia, Kenya, Cuba, Myanmar and Ethiopia.
  • In Myanmar, for instance, primary school enrolment rates stand at 88 percent for girls, and 90 percent for boys.
    • Additionally, in secondary level, enrolment rate for girls is at 62 percent and 57 percent for boys.
    • Even at tertiary level, enrolment rates for girls stand at 19 percent, compared to 13 percent for boys.

Countries struggling with gender parity in education include Togo, Burkina Faso and Burundi.

Togolese Prime Minister Komi Selom, Klassou confirmed that alarming gender inequalities exist, despite the existence of innovative strategies towards an inclusive education system.

“We have school canteens to provide school free meals, free medical cover for school-going children and the newly approved year-on-year budgetary increase to the education sector,” he said during the summit.

  • The Global Gender Gap Report indicates that in Togo, enrolment in primary school is at 88 percent among girls, and 94 percent for boys.
  • Secondary school enrolment for girls is at 34 percent for girls and 49 percent for boys.
  • At tertiary level, 10 percent of girls enrol vis-à-vis 19 percent of boys.

“Efforts to narrow this gap include a new government commitment to allocate at least 25 percent of its national budget to the education sector,” he said.

Fahima Mohamed says Djibouti is among a growing list of developing countries were education attainment levels have significantly narrowed between boys and girls. She called for more investments to ensure that girls participate at the same level as boys. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Mohamed told IPS that ongoing consultations on education will bring the global south a step closer towards “building fairer and more inclusive economies by transforming our education systems to ensure that every child has access to quality education”.

She explained that ultimately the idea was to embrace an education system that reflects the reality of children in the global south. This also included improving educational infrastructure and content so that the latter could be more diverse to reflect the multiple-cultural narrative of the global south.

Nonetheless, Sheikh Manssour Bin Mussallam, President of ERF, emphasised that balanced and inclusive education systems are not solely about having more children in classrooms, but the “construction of systems that makes exclusion impossible”.

“Our education systems should guarantee that marginalised groups participate under balanced and equitable conditions. The transformative power of education is only true if education itself is transformed and driven by forces that uphold equality and equity,” he said during the opening day of the summit.

Data by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) shows that existing education systems are far from equitable, prosperous and sustainable.

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 21 percent of girls are much more likely to be out of school at primary school age compared to 16 percent of boys.
  • Globally, UNESCO statistics indicate that sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the worst rates of education exclusion. One in four children in South Asia, and one in five children in sub-Saharan Africa will never enter school.
  • Equally alarming, World Bank statistics show that children with a disability are more likely to never enrol in school at all. Overall, only one in four children with disabilities complete secondary school.
  • Additionally, primary school completion rates are 10 percentage points lower for girls with disabilities compared to girls without disabilities.

“In Sri Lanka where girls are consistently outpacing boys in both education access and achievement, our main challenge is lack of financial and technical resources to address the [requirements] of special needs children,” P.C.K. Pirisyala, director of education at the Sri Lanka Education Administrative Service, told IPS.

“Developing countries are grappling with a lack of teachers to provide adequate training and material to provide disability-inclusive education,” she said.

She further said that a lack of resources (both technical and financial) and a lack of schools equipped to accommodate special needs children has made it difficult for these children in the global south to access education and participate with their peers.

“This forum will provide the global south with a roadmap that reflects these realities, and bring us closer to the dream of balanced and inclusive education for all by 2030. This is all in line with the [U.N.] sustainable development goal four on education for all,” she concluded.

The summit runs until Wednesday, Jan. 29.